CHP cracks down on cell phone use

August 11, 2009 6:54:51 PM PDT
The California Highway Patrol is launching a zero-tolerance campaign Tuesday to crack down on drivers who text or talk on cell phones without a hands-free device.

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CHP officer Troy Elder says trying to enforce the state's year-old hands free law can be like a game of cat and mouse. Drivers know it's the law, but they hope not to get caught.

However, today the odds are against them.

Nine South Bay agencies are cracking down with a "zero tolerance" enforcement campaign. They're trying to stop it because of the accidents distraction can cause.

"One second of inattention can really cause a serious injury collision or fatal collision," said Officer Elder.

In California, CHP reports there were 261 accidents tied to drivers holding a cell phone from July to October last year -- 115 drivers were injured and five were killed.

Only minutes after we hit the road with Officer Elder, he spotted a driver chatting away, oblivious to the patrol car and our camera.

The driver was from Nevada with no hands free law, but he's not exempt from the California law.

"Being that I was one of those distracted drivers, frankly, I think it's a great law. We always know what happens, we heard just what happened with the train wreck and everything else, so I think it's a great law, and I'm going to abide by it I'll be pulling off and finishing my conversation," said Nevada resident Ron Williams.

The first-time fine is $20 plus court costs and repeat violations are $50 plus fees. Many drivers purchased hands free earpieces last year. Still, officers hear many excuses why they're not being used.

"The number one reason that I hear is that the battery on their earpiece went dead. So it's kind of good that they actually went out and bought the earpiece, but you do have to maintain it and continue to use it," said Officer Elder.

This is what Officer Elder and other law enforcement officers would like to see.

CHP is hoping this crackdown will raise compliance and make the roads safer.

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